13 April 2006
BERLIN - A Turkish-born man who shot dead his older sister in a so-called honour-killing was convicted of murder and jailed for nine years and three months by a German court on Thursday.
In an attack that started a national debate in Germany, Hatun Surucu was gunned down on a Berlin street last February. A vivacious single mother aged 23, she had cut her ties with her Turkish family and abandoned an arranged marriage.
Her brother Ayhan Surucu, now 20, confessed to the killing which he said had been carried out to restore "honour" to the family. Because he was 18 at the time of the killing, he could not be given the adult sentence of life imprisonment.
Presiding Judge Michael Degreif said there was something awful about the attack, since Hatun had been killed merely for "living her life the way she thought best".
Ayhan's two older brothers, who had been accused of providing the gun and acting as lookout, were acquitted by the court, which said their involvement had not been proven. Prosecutors had claimed the men of the family conspired to "execute" their "wayward" sister.
The case drew huge attention in Germany which has a large Turkish minority numbering about 2.5 million out of a total population of 82 million. The Surucu family had moved to Berlin from a poor area of eastern Anatolia to find work.
There are growing fears over the failure to integrate foreigners in Germany and Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble recently warned that "slums" were developing in minority areas in some cities.
The execution-style killing shocked Berliners. Ayhan walked up to his sister on a street near the apartment where she was bringing up her son in Berlin's Tempelhof district and shot her point-blank three times with a pistol. She died in a pool of blood.
Judge Degreif said the case was tragic as Hatun had been seeking reconciliation with her family. The accused had been motivated by a "code of honour" that obliged him to defend the family reputation and by his view that Islam forbade his sister's lifestyle.
At the start of the six-month trial, Ayhan testified he had acted alone and insisted his brothers, now 25 and 26, had not been involved. A key witness against the older brothers, Ayhan's former girlfriend, went into hiding under a witness protection programme.
The death of Hatun prompted Germany to seek ways to bar arranged marriages, since Hatun was alleged to have been married in Turkey against her will.
She had returned to Berlin and then moved away from home in the face of protests from her family. She completed her school education and began an apprenticeship as an electrician.
Legislation is currently under consideration that would make it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail to force anyone to marry.
The UN Human Rights Commission estimates that about 5,000 women and girls are the victims of "honour killings" by their own families around the world every year. The feudal-style code of honour is common in some Islamic societies and also a few Christian nations.
A family policy spokesman of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Johannes Singhammer, said Germany had to show "zero tolerance" towards "this disgraceful form of kangaroo justice".
There has also been counter-reaction within some elements of Germany's Turkish community amid a perception that Berlin is trying to stamp out all foreign customs or that it may be hostile to Islam.
There was national news coverage when Turkish youths at one Berlin school demonstrated against Ayhan's murder prosecution.
Subject: German news
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